“Bye-bye church. We’re busy.” That’s the message teens are giving churches today.” This is the intro into the article which highlights the migration of teens from church youth groups. The article, which includes everyone’s favorite pollsters, the Barna Group, states that only 1 in 4 teens now participate in youth groups and the trend has been flat since 1999. The article goes on to say that the reason many teens are no longer interested in youth group may in part be due to social media such as Facebook. I’m not so sure I agree with that guesstimation. The real reason teens are leaving is revealed later in the article with this statement: “A decade ago teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ “ The problem is that churches diverged from preaching the Gospel. Instead of attracting those whom the Holy Spirit was leading, the net was cast far and wide to attract as many teens as possible and then in order to keep them coming back, the message was softened. This is the same approach that is failing within the main congregation of churches and is leading to the proverbial, “mile-wide inch-deep” congregants. The article goes on to state that 2 youth pastors have figured out a solution, “by letting teens know “real church, centered on Jesus Christ, is hard work,” while another opines, “teens today want Scripture, they don’t want superficiality. We need to tell them that if you are part of church life, you are part of something bigger.” A truly novel idea: center the focus on Jesus Christ, preach the word, teach that the path is not only narrow, but difficult, and expel the superficiality.
Without the “fun” and pizza parties, what message are we left with? How about one that includes a heavy dose of the Truth, like this one:
This story starts off with the statement: “Learning stories from the Bible doesn’t have to be boring” which in itself is a true statement. It doesn’t have to be boring, because teaching others about God’s Word is a rewarding opportunity to share the message of the Gospel and show the youth of all ages who God is and what sending His Son Jesus is all about. However, that opening statement is about as good as it gets for this story and the context of that sentence has to do more with the creative presentation than focusing on the truths of God’s Word. There are effective and engaging ways to share the Gospel and teach children about God, but using songs such as “Throw Up” seems inappropriate. If the foundation at any age is not built firmly on the “rock” that is the Word of God then when the storms come, and make no mistake they will, these youth will find their “houses” built on sand being will be washed away. It’s a simple formula that’s worked for literally thousands of years, whether it’s for a youth or an adult congregation, “Preach the Word!”
Here’s the song:
Don’t feel bad, prior to this article I’d never heard of “Transformational Church” either. Lifeway Research, which I might lump in the same category as The Barna Group, has developed this church description based on research from 7000 churches, 250 pastors and staff and 20,000 church member surveys. Ed Stetzer, director of Lifeway, conducted Sunday School training in order to teach leaders how to utilize Lifeway’s “Transformational Church” project. The following were the objectives which leaders were encouraged to apply:
- Discern their contexts and have a missionary mindset for reaching people in their communities.
- Embrace values of vibrant leadership, relational intentionality and prayerful dependence.
- Engage in biblical actions in areas of worship, community and mission.
I hate to sound so negative, I really do, but the solution to what we’ve read in these articles so far isn’t a “Transformational Church” project/model/conversation and it’s not about producing superficial entertainment to draw crowds. It doesn’t take a project like this to tell us that a teacher of God’s Word studies the Bible prayerfully seeking God’s direction in understanding the Scriptures, then he teaches God’s Word to those whom he has been placed as shepherd over. God brings the sheep and prepares the hearts and He’s promised that His Word will not return to Him void. It’s almost too simple, we preach Christ and Him crucified and God does the work and gets the glory.
Finally, another article that essentially sums up what we’ve read and discussed so far. Due to the lack of youth involvement and attendance in church these days a “plan” of rebranding Christianity as “hip, countercultural, relevant” created what is called “the emerging church”, a term you’re likely familiar with if you’ve followed this blog at all. Despite the continuing influence of the teachers of the Emerging Church, the “plan” fizzled quickly, as we’ve seen in the previous articles. While the emerging church approach of “rethinking everything” has failed miserably, the “Cool-Church” concept remains. Some examples cited in the article include the following:
- Pastors quoting Stephen Colbert or Lady Gaga
- Churches screening R-rated movies such as “No Country For Old Men”
- A “metro-sexual” makeover for the pastor
- Worship services in a bar or nightclub (such as L.A.’s Mosaic church)
- Being on the technological cutting edge
- And perhaps the most popular – shock appeal, such as using sex like in books by Rob Bell, “Sex God” and Lauren Winner, “Real Sex” in addition to sex-themed marketing gimmicks
The article concludes with this statement: “If we are interested in Christianity in any sort of serious way, it is not because it’s easy or trendy or popular. It’s because Jesus himself is appealing, and what he says rings true. It’s because the world we inhabit is utterly phony, ephemeral, narcissistic, image-obsessed and sex-drenched—and we want an alternative. It’s not because we want more of the same.”
“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as dust on the scales; behold he takes up coastlands like fine dust.” Isaiah 40:15